SEATTLE, Washington — Pneumonia is one of the top six causes of death in children globally. The leading cause of pneumonia is pneumococcal disease. This disease kills up to 1 million children under the age of five annually, primarily in poverty-stricken regions. The disease not only causes pneumonia but a variety of other infections, such as meningitis and bronchitis. The infection is completely preventable by implementing the pneumococcal vaccine.
Covering the Cost of the Vaccine
Pfizer is the pharmaceutical company responsible for the pneumococcal vaccine. Recently it has reduced the price of the vaccine by five cents per dose for humanitarian and non-governmental agencies through an agreement with the Gavi Alliance. The reduction in cost is now available to 73 poverty-stricken regions. As a result, more humanitarian organizations will be able to prevent the spread of pneumonia.
Additionally, these price drops are being supported by the Advanced Market Commitment (AMC) for pneumococcal vaccines. The pneumococcal AMC is a financing mechanism that allows Gavi to easily roll out vaccinations in low-income countries. The organization has donors from several countries and manufacturers that agree to supply them with the pneumococcal vaccine. The AMC has helped Gavi to introduce access to the vaccine to children in 57 countries. The introduction of the price drop allows donors’ money to go even further in saving the lives of children globally.
Treatment and Prevention
Pneumonia, which is typically what the Streptococcus pneumoniae infection turns into, is treatable by antibiotics. However, WHO states that only a third of children with this strain of pneumonia receive the antibiotics they need. In 2015, the estimated cost of pneumonia treatment for children in 66 countries was $109 million per year.
WHO and UNICEF recently developed the Global Action Plan for Pneumonia and Diarrhoea (GAPPD) to improve pneumonia control globally. Countries, like Bangladesh, India, Kenya, Uganda and Zambia, have implemented strict plans to control pneumonia and diarrhea in order to improve the child survival rate. Although there are plans to improve disease control, antibiotic resistance still poses a threat.
Drug-Resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae
The CDC outlined the importance of vaccinations due to the disease’s increased resistance to antibiotics. These drug-resistant strains are referred to as Drug-Resistant Streptococcus Pneumoniae (DRSP). DRSP contributes to rising costs, such as the cost of making new antibiotics or the cost of repeated failed treatments. Some challenges facing the prevention of antibiotic-resistant strains include the under-use of vaccines in adults, the unavailability of vaccines for some pneumococcal strains and the misuse of antibiotics.
Furthermore, the organization has contributed to the decrease in the percentage of cases of antibiotic-resistant pneumococcal bacteria through the new use of pneumococcal vaccines in children. Access to vaccinations offers the potential to keep costs low for international organizations by preventing the spread of DRSP.
Although the price reduction of the pneumococcal vaccine only directly improves prevention methods for the disease, it may have an indirect impact on the costs of treatment and even the costs of producing new antibiotics. Pneumonia may seem insignificant compared to other diseases like HIV or tuberculosis, but its prevention could mean life for a child in the developing world.
– Olivia Halliburton